Teacher's Corner

Intellectual Disability

Having a comprehensive understanding of students with moderate or severe intellectual disability

Providing teachers with a common profile of a student with moderate or severe intellectual disability is next to impossible for the simple reason that there are too many individual differences  among these students to consider.

What should we be aware of?



Students with a moderate to severe intellectual disability :

  They learn best when:

What should be kept in mind at all times?

Students with moderate or severe intellectual disability can and do learn, and

If one is not sure what a student can learn “it is better to err on the side of assuming competence even if it's not there, rather than to err on the side of assuming incompetence when competence is the case. Criterion of the least dangerous assumption" (Cardinal, 2002; Donnellan, 1984).


Having a comprehensive understanding of your student’s strengths and needs, is key to effective planning. It begins by having a student profile and student learning profile.

Student Profile

The student profile is snap shot of the student’s abilities, interests, talents, preferences, vulnerabilities such as potential barriers to learning and needs in the context of the class.

Why have a Student Profile?

The student profile is an effective tool that provides teachers with the necessary information to make personalized educational decisions that will support student’s development and participation in daily classroom activities and learning situations, and assessment.

The Student Profile provides teachers the opportunity to:

“The information gathered for an individual student profile is an important resource for members of in-school teams and any other educators or professionals considering the needs of students who require additional support, particularly students for whom an Individual Education Plan (IEP) – or even a transition plan alone – is being considered.” (Ontario Ministry of Education)

What information should be part of a student’s profile?

Information concerning the interests, abilities & strengths, inabilities & vulnerabilities, level of independence, needed resources (human and/or material) about:

Where can this information be found?

“A student profile provides the detail teachers need in order to devise assessment and instruction that take into account the student’s particular needs while capitalizing on his or her particular strengths.”

(Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013)


Student Learner Profile

The Student Learner Profile allows the teacher to situate his/her student’s capabilities/abilities in regards to an educational program or curriculum expectations.

Why have a Student Learner Profile?


The information gathered regarding the student’s capabilities/abilities with respect to the expectations of a particular competency or subject supports the learning objectives selected by the teacher. Knowing the students level of capabilities/abilities structures planning and selecting specific learning goals for each of his/her students and his/her classroom as a whole (grouping, classroom setting, needed materials, and human resources). Simply stated, what do they know, what can they do, and where do I want to go from here with my students?

What information should be part of a student’s profile?
Any information that will support planning of instruction and assessment of students.

  • level of readiness to learn - in relation to subject areas and curriculum expectations

  • learning strengths, styles and preferences

  • current levels of achievement and progress in developing skills and work habits

  • learning needs (supports, accommodations)

  • social and emotional strengths and needs (self-management, getting along with others, social responsibility)

  • capacity to adjust to transitions

  • available resources and supports that help meet the student’s needs

Where can this information be found?

  • In-class observations

  • Observations during routines

  • consultations with current and previous teachers

  • consultations with parent(s)

  • previous report cards

  • other evaluation or reporting documents

  • IEPs

Templates are available at the bottom of this page for reference purposes only.

woman and boy reading together

Disability Process Model and Education


Schools can benefit from rethinking how they provide teaching and intervention strategies according to the “Disability Creation Process” (DCP) model.  By identifying potential obstacles and addressing these, students’ opportunities to participate actively in school and in their community could be significantly increased.

What are potential barriers that could limit a person’s participation in school and community life and create a disabling situation?

  • physical environment that is not accessible

  • lack of relevant assistive technology

  • negative attitudes of people towards disability

  • services that not available or put in place to support needs such as lack of adapted transportation and human resources

  • lack of access to information (signage that is difficult to read or understand)

  • little to no access to activities such as after school program



Intellectual Disability Instructional Support Tool

Class Profile

Global Planning


Student Portrait


Knowing Your Students

Learner's Profile


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Bergeron, G., Ducharme, M., Fortin, M., & Vézina, M.M. (2013).  Guideline for Advisors of Post-Secondary Students with Disabilities. AQICESH


Buntinx, W.H.W & Schalock R.L. (2010). Models of Disability, Quality of Life, and Individualized Supports: Implications for Professional Practice in Intellectual Disability. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 7(4), 283-294.


Comité National d’expertise sur l’évaluation des apprentissages pour les élèves ayant une DIP (2012-2016). Encadrements, données de literature et argumentaire ayant mené à l’application de la démarche de planification et d’évaluation en DIP.


Fougeyrollas, P. & Robin J.P. (2013). The Interactive Person-Environment Disability Prevention Process: A conceptual Framework and Methodology for Intervention and Social Participation Outcomes Measurement in the Field of Rehabilitation and Inclusive Urban and Local Inclusive Development. A Proposal for the Expected Revision of ICF. International Network on the Disability Creation Process


Weis, Robert, (2014). Intellectual Disability and Developmental Disorders in Children. In Robert Weis, Editor (Ed.),  Introduction to Abnormal Child and Adolescent Psychology, (pp. 88-126). Thousand Oaks, California, Sage Publications Inc.




American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disorders. (2017, February). Definition of Intellectual Disability. Retrieved from http://aaidd.org/intellectual-disability/definition#.WMvJEmMg3sE

Canadian Association for Community Living. (2017, February). Mandate. Retrieved from https://cacl.ca/who-we-are/our-mandate/

Institut de la statistique Québec (2017, February). Enquête québécoise sur les limitations d’activités, les maladies chroniques et le vieillissement 2010-2011 : Utilisation des services de santé et des services sociaux des personnes avec incapacité – Volume 2. Retrieved from http://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/sante/services/incapacites/limitation-maladies-chroniques-utilisation.pdf